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A nurse is not a flight attendant

Years ago I worked in a medical center and had the opportunity to serve on a leadership group with the director of nursing. I was surprised to hear that some of the nurses who received the most glowing recommendations were sometimes the nurses that were being disciplined. And the reverse was true. Some nurses who were well regarded by physicians were sometimes not liked by patients and families. What's up?

Turns out people often have the wrong idea about nurses and their roles. Keep this in mind when your loved one is in the hospital - especially the ICU. Critical care nurses have the following responsibilities:

  • Assessing a patient’s condition and planning and implementing patient care plans

  • Treating wounds and providing advanced life support

  • Assisting physicians in performing procedures

  • Observing and recording patient vital signs

  • Ensuring that ventilators, monitors and other types of medical equipment function properly

  • Administering intravenous fluids and medications

  • Ordering diagnostic tests

  • Collaborating with fellow members of the critical care team

  • Responding to life-saving situations, using nursing standards and protocols for treatment

  • Acting as patient advocate

  • Providing education and support to patient families

Now take these tasks and multiply them by the number of patients in the ICU. It's a formidable job. Don't assume a curt personality equates to a bad nurse. Ideally you will have someone who is both knowledgeable and friendly. But if there's a choice you want to error on the side of the nurse who takes things seriously, records vital signs accurately and is respected by physicians. Your loved one's life depends on those things, not getting their juice perfectly on time.

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